Last November, altmetrics provider ImpactStory launched their Impact Challenge, encouraging academics to take action and improve their chances of making an impact. It consisted of 30 tasks focused on how to create an online presence, spread the word about your research, connect with other researchers, keep updated and track mentions to you and your work. Being a challenge, you are expected to complete all tasks, and there’s even a prize. But they did a very good job of presenting not only the advantages but also disadvantages and concerns involved in each task – for instance, the closed, commercial nature of sites like Academia.edu and Facebook. Taking a challenge is fun, but research is serious business. In the end, the decision is at the hands of the researcher: is this particular tool/action a good choice for me and my work? The information provided in each Impact Challenge post makes it easier to make that decision.
The first 5 challenge tasks involved creating profiles in some of the best known academic and/or professional networks out there: Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, Mendeley and LinkedIn (click the links to see my profiles, feel free to add me to your contacts). Because I am interested in how scientists use social media tools to communicate about and work on their research (this was supposed to be the theme of my master thesis, before I decided to focus on altmetrics), I had already joined all of these networks in the past, so I took the opportunity to revise my profiles, especially the LinkedIn one.
Clearly there are too many social network sites, and that might lead to “profile fatigue“. This might be even worse for researchers from non-English speaking countries like myself, since we might need to keep multilingual profiles. And Brazilians have another factor to consider: we have a national database of individual researchers, the Lattes Platform. Pretty much everyone who does research here, from undergrads to top scientists, needs to have a Lattes CV. Lattes info is used for selecting grad students, hiring professors, assessing institutional performance, and much more. I still need to look at this more closely, but I would guess many Brazilian researchers don’t invest much time on web-based academic social networks because they feel Lattes is enough – even it doesn’t have social features, it is what counts for evaluation purposes around here, and keeping it up-to-date can be a lot of work.
Tasks #6 and #7 are the reason this blog exists, as I said on my first post. As I start my phd next year, the plan is to use this site to build my online presence and discuss my expectations, discoveries, and difficulties faced during the next four years – stay tuned!
Task #8 presented Kudos, a tool with an interesting premise: getting researchers to explain their work in simpler terms as a way to amplify the reach of their journal articles. Unfortunately I’ve only got one paper currently eligible for Kudos, a journal article I co-authored with colleagues in an area that has little to do with my current interests (my most recent work are conference presentations). I prefer waiting until I have something I feel more strongly about to see what Kudos can do for my research.
Days #9 and #10 were all about Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is by far my favorite social network, a great place to follow what matters to me, from important to silly stuff – hey, for me being silly is pretty important! Tweetdeck has helped me enjoy it even more, by creating custom columns not only from lists but also from searches (by the way, if you know an Android Twitter client that has columns as flexible as Tweetdeck’s, please leave a comment). Facebook is a different story, my contacts there are mostly friends and family. The academic ones are usually also on some other network I use, so for me it’s just not worth it to use Facebook for research purposes now.
Maintaining all your social media accounts can be a lot of work, so task #11 helps to make things a little easier with automation tools like Buffer and IFTTT. I was already a IFTTT user, and am now getting to know Buffer. But what I’d really like would be a way to automatically add new publications to all my academic profiles, which isn’t possible right now and probably won’t be soon.
The next tasks dealt with making your research outputs – data, software, conference talks, preprints and so on – more visible. I’ve been using Figshare for my preprints already (conference papers, master’s thesis), and now I’m thinking of ways to share my data there. SlideShare is already the home of all my slides. I haven’t written any research software yet, so still no use for Github. Guess I’ll probably need to learn some code for my PhD, I’ll be sure to share any I might write in the future.
If you’re going to openly share your data, slides, code and preprints, it makes sense to also publish your articles openly, right? That’s the point of step 15. Being an “impact” challenge, the emphasis here is in the Open Access citation advantage, which is really great – who doesn’t want more readers and citations? But commiting to Open Access can also be a political statement – consider Erin McKiernan’s talk at OpenCon 2014, for example. I feel this sort of personal action is necessary if we’re going to change our current publishing system into one where openness is the norm.
As important to put your work out there is to make sure everyone knows this work is actually yours. Task #17 introduces ORCID identifiers – unique numbers to identify researchers and connect them to their works. I got mine earlier this year.
On day 18, we were invited to create video abstracts for research. I think these are cool, but I’m not sure I’d do it. I gave an interview about my master’s research to a Brazilian podcast, and would love to do something like this again, but the idea of making a video by myself is something I’m not comfortable with.
Promoting yourself and your work is important, but is not everything. Task #19 suggests unlocking the potential of Open Peer Review as a tool for establishing your expertise. Personally, I still can’t think of myself as a proper “peer”, much less an expert, so I feel too intimidated to give opinions on these platforms. It’s something I need to work on.
Tasks #20 and #21 are full of useful tips for staying up-to-date with your colleague’s work and the most recent developments on your field. Following people in Academia.edu/Researchgate and joining Mendeley groups works well for me. I tried creating Google Scholar alerts, but with search terms “altmetrics” and “article-level metrics” it sent me every page with an Altmetric donut in it. Sparrho offers a similar alert service, and their suggestions are much better than Google’s in my experience, at least for altmetrics – searching for “article-level metrics” is still not efficient. But my favorite, most effective way to keep up-to-date and interact with fellow researchers is to look daily at my Tweetdeck search column dedicated to #altmetrics. If you know of any Twitter hashtags related to your work, I suggest trying this. Oh, and I still use rss feeds to keep an eye on my favorite blogs and sites, academic or otherwise – since the end of Google Reader, I’m a happy Newsblur customer.
Task #22 has great pointers to help researchers deal with the press. My research is hardly newsworthy, but I’ll keep their tips in mind just in case.
Days #23 to #26 went back to the work of expanding your network and building meaningful relationships, by joining listservs, going to conferences, mentoring, and finding co-authors. I follow several email lists (if you’re interested in open science/access/data, check the Open Knowledge Foundation ones), try to go to as many academic events as possible, and am getting in touch with potential co-authors. But I’ve never thought a student like me could be a mentor. I’m thinking of ways to put their advice into practice next year.
Task #27 presents tools for tracking activity around your social media accounts and/or websites, namely Twitter, Sumall, and Google Analytics (SlideShare has also recently made their analytics page freely available to users). Even if you’re not interested on becoming some sort of web celebrity, it is worth it to take a look at these statistics – I, for instance, was quite surprised to see that most visitors to my SlideShare are based in the US, since most of my content is in portuguese.
Tracking the effects of your social media presence is nice, but tracking the effects of your research products is better. In order to do that, it’s important to make them easily identifiable by search engines. Task #28 shows how to get DOIs for articles, preprints, databases, reviews and other products. I use Figshare for this purpose, no complaints so far. Tasks #29 and #30 wrap up the challenge presenting tools to get product-level metrics, from citations to altmetrics. They cover a good number of sources, but of course Impactstory gets the spotlight – it is their challenge, after all! I think their tool really makes it easier to follow metrics about your work. Just make sure all your outputs are there, and they do the rest (disclaimer: I’m an enthusiastic ImpactStory user).
Taking the Impactstory Impact Challenge was a fun way for me to think about how I’m presenting myself on the web, and how to better use it for doing, sharing and discussing research. I did not complete all tasks (no t-shirt for me!), but that wasn’t my goal anyway. As I advance on my way towards becoming a mature researcher, I shall keep these lessons in mind.